Sum­mer read­ing could be very dif­fer­ent this year as the e-book trend takes hold, writes Jen­nifer Dud­leyNi­chol­son

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Gadgets -

THE printed word is in the midst of a revo­lu­tion. Dig­i­tal books are gain­ing ground on their dog-eared, book­marked coun­ter­parts and ex­perts pre­dict e-books could se­ri­ously chal­lenge tra­di­tional tomes in just two years.

By 2012 three in ev­ery 10 books could be de­liv­ered dig­i­tally, ac­cord­ing to book­sell­ers, and pub­lish­ers are fu­elling the tran­si­tion by adding more back-cat­a­logue books and story types to the mix.

Af­ter a slow start, the e-book revo­lu­tion is now well un­der way.

Last year con­nected e-book read­ers al­most dou­bled in num­ber to reach 6.5 mil­lion, and Gart­ner pre­dicts more than 15.8 mil­lion e-read­ers will be in use by 2013.

Fur­ther­more, Amer­i­can read­ers alone splurged $263 mil­lion on e-books in the first eight months of 2010, and Aus­tralian book­sell­ers claim dig­i­tal tomes now rep­re­sent 2 per cent of book sales.

A Bor­ders spokesman says the in­dus­try had been sur­prised by the speed of the tran­si­tion, which gained ground to­wards the end of the year.

‘‘ The sales spike started in Septem­ber and Novem­ber saw a dou­bling in sales again,’’ he says.

‘‘ Dig­i­tal book sales rep­re­sent 2 per cent of the mar­ket right now, but ask me again in the mid­dle of the year and it will be 5 to 10 per cent.

‘‘ In two years’ time — if e-book sales con­tinue at this rate — they will rep­re­sent 20 to 30 per cent of the book mar­ket.’’

The spokesman says sev­eral fac­tors are be­hind the rapid in­crease. They in­clude the pro­lif­er­a­tion of e-book read­ers fol­low­ing the Aus­tralian re­lease of the Ama­zon Kin­dle in late 2009, lower prices, porta­bil­ity and swift, lowhas­sle de­liv­ery.

‘‘ The beauty of e-book sales is the con­ve­nience,’’ he says.

‘‘ If I fin­ish a book at 9.30pm I don’t have to get up, get dressed, get in the car and find a late-night book­store to get a new novel. And, let’s face it, the kind of stores sell­ing books at 9.30 are not for ev­ery­one.’’

Harper Collins pub­lish­ing di­rec­tor Shona Mar­tyn says elec­tronic books are also tempt­ing read­ers back to the mar­ket through gadgets they al­ready own.

She says many Aus­tralians are us­ing mo­bile phones to screen books, whether that is ‘‘ while they are on the train, wait­ing at the doc­tor’s or wait­ing for a friend’’.

Mar­tyn says the com­pany is hop­ing to cap­ture these new ca­sual read­ers by of­fer­ing short sto­ries in a dig­i­tal form for the first time.

Nine erotic short sto­ries from Tob­sha Learner are now avail­able through the Ap­ple iBooks, Ama­zon Kin­dle, Kobo and Bor­ders stores for 99c each.

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